Goin' Streaking

Wine & Gold Close Month of November on 10-Game Run, Looking for More
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Managing Editor

Goin' Streaking

Wine & Gold Close November on 10-Game Run, Looking for More

The Cavaliers team that went into November is a completely different squad than the one that closed the month with their 10th straight win on Thursday night in Atlanta. And at the 2017-18 season’s quarter-turn, the East’s alpha dogs have quietly put the Conference on notice.

As the Wine & Gold gear up for Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies on Saturday night at The Q, here are 10 quick points from the Cavaliers’ 10-game tear through late-November …

Double trouble ... LBJ and KLove are tied for the team-lead with 14 double-doubles on the season.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images

1. Don’t think that Tyronn Lue’s squad wasn’t hearing what was being said about them during their 5-7 start: “old,” “slow,” “sluggish.”

Sometimes it takes some good old-fashioned NBA adversity (perceived or otherwise) to get a team that’s played in three straight Finals riled up for the regular season’s dog days. Either way, the Cavaliers took it out on some young squads that were feeling their oats heading into a matchup with the Cavs.

Instead, Cleveland tightened up all comers – dropping the chesty Knicks at The Garden, demolishing the front-running Pistons and hot Sixers in their gyms by 20-plus on successive Mondays and making short work of the streaking Heat this week at The Q.

2. Leading the pack right out of the gate is nothing new for LeBron James, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month (for the months of October and November) for an NBA-record 35th time in his career on Friday. And the future Hall of Famer, who turns 33 at the end of this month, is showing no signs of letting up in his 15th season.

James is having his best offensive season since 2009-10, currently ranked third in the league in scoring (28.0 ppg), fourth in assists (8.5 apg) and seventh in field goal percentage (.583) – the only non-big man in the Top 15.

James has topped the 30-point plateau on nine occasions this season, including his “Hot Tub Time Machine” night in D.C. – dropping 57 nationally-televised points on the tough-talking Wizards. Over Cleveland’s 10-game run, James has doubled-up in six contests, including his 57th career triple-double last Friday against Charlotte.

On a spiritual level, Number 23 seems focused and happy. He’s got an excellent rhythm going with Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade. In Cleveland’s 22 games this season, either James or Love have led the team in scoring; exclusively he and Wade in assists.

Heading into the holidays, it’s good to be the King.

3. It’s gotta be pretty good being Kevin Love around the holidays and all year long, too.

But don’t let the dashing Banana Republic spokesman thing fool you. With Tristan Thompson still on the shelf with a calf injury, Love has rolled up his sleeves and done some serious dirty work in the middle – taking on the likes of Marcin Gortat, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Joel Embiid, Hassan Whiteside and Dwight Howard twice in November.

Love outplayed nearly all of them this month, notching his 14th double-double of the season (3rd best in the NBA) with a 25-point, 16-rebound gem against the Hawks to follow up his monster performance against Whiteside and the Heat – going off for 38 points in 25 minutes.

4. This season, Love is shooting a career-best .891 from the stripe. And he’s not an anomaly on a Cavaliers’ team that’s connecting on their free throws at an .810 clip – good for 4th-best in the NBA.

The Cavaliers have hit on 80 percent of their free throws on 11 occasions this season and better than 90 percent in five contests – including a 17-for-17 effort in an early-season win over the Bucks.

The Wine & Gold can still score in bunches. They’re averaging 112.5 points per over the course of their recent run, outscoring foes by 10.2 points over that stretch. But when push comes to shove in the postseason, being able to can freebies down the stretch might make all the difference.

Jae Crowder shoots a free throw against the Chicago Bulls on October 10, 2017 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

5. Any pre-season concerns that Dwyane Wade might hurt the Cavaliers chemistry seems almost laughable at this point.

The 12-time All-Star – who volunteered to go to the bench three games into the season – has been easily Cleveland’s most efficient bench player since LeBron’s return, and the two have worked seamlessly together. (And Wade doing excellent work independent of James with the second unit.)

Wade’s been even better over the Cavs recent win streak – notching double-figures in seven of the 10 wins, including each of the last five.

Night after night – including his 23-point, 11-rebound performance against the Clippers – Wade stuffs the boxscore on both ends, averaging 13.5 points, 4.9 boards and 4.0 assists over Cleveland’s streak, blocking a pair of shots in four of those 10 contests.

6. The Cavaliers top two scorers this season are LeBron James (28.0 ppg) and Kevin Love (19.0). The next three leading scorers are reserves: Wade (11.1), Kyle Korver (10.5) and Jeff Green (10.1).

Even as they’ve taken the Eastern Conference over the past three years, the Cavaliers have never had a bench ensemble like their current second unit, which averages 40.5 points per game, good for 5th in the NBA. Cleveland’s collective bench has topped 40 points on 14 times this season, including a 64-point effort (albeit in a loss to the Hawks).

Korver has been outstanding and his pair of fourth-quarter explosions in Dallas and New York actually jump-started Cleveland’s win streak. He’s notched double-digits in 11 games and 20-plus points thrice. The 15-year vet has notched at least nine points in the fourth quarter on five occasions so far this season.

Jeff Green looks like one of the steals of the offseason – scoring in double-figures four times during the win streak, one game after going off for 27 points as the Cavs opened their season-altering road trip in Houston.

But the Cavaliers have also gotten terrific performances from Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and even rookie, Cedi Osman, to turn around an early season funk.

Dwyane Wade and Jeff Green talk during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 20, 2017 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

7. The Wine & Gold are a team built for the long haul – to be playing their best basketball in May and June. Improved free throw shooting and bench play is a great early sign. So is their efficiency away from The Q.

Last season, the Cavaliers were 20-21 on the road, the only Division-winning team with a sub-.500 mark. But this season, the King and Co. have taken their show on the road with style, sitting at 8-3 on the campaign and closing out the month of November with a 7-1 mark.

The tough part of their road schedule still lies ahead. Between December 17 and January 12, the Cavs are on the road for 10 of 12 games. Working out some of the kinks before that stretch was critical.

8. As encouraging as it’s been considering the guys who’ve contributed to the Cavs’ recent run, think about the players still waiting the wings.

Tristan Thompson’s had an unusual start to the campaign, struggling to find his rhythm and his role before a strained left calf sidelined him on November 1. Thompson, who Tyronn Lue has labeled “the heart and soul” of the team has been limited to eight games this season, but is hoping for a December return.

Iman Shumpert, who filled in admirable at point guard over the win streak, might be out a little longer – having undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Friday.

Derrick Rose hasn’t played much for the Cavs this season, with an ankle sprain suffered late in the second game of the season (along with some personal issues) restricting him to just seven appearances. He tallied double-figures in each of those contests, but hasn’t suited up for a game since November 7.

And then there’s the Eastern Conference’s reigning top scorer and Second Team All-NBA performer, Isaiah Thomas, who’s champing at the proverbial bit to get back on the hardwood. He’s been moving well in practice, but still has to go through 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 drills before he’s ready to return for game duty.

The Cavs – and their fan base – await with bated breath.

9. Even without Thompson and a hobbled Shump, the Cavaliers defense has taken a big step forward in November.

Cleveland held their first two foes under 100 points, but things slipped from there – allowing opponents to average 114.2 points on .483 shooting from the floor and .411 from long-range before beginning their 10-game run.

Since then, the Cavs have held teams to a 102.3 average, shooting .443 from the floor, including .317 from beyond the arc. Before surrendering 114 points to Atlanta (Cleveland’s third game in four nights), the Cavs had held the previous three opponents under the century mark.

Tyronn Lue’s squad still isn’t where they want to be defensively. But as we’ve established: this team ain’t built for November.

10. Even though Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, let’s take a moment to appreciate the job Cavs first-year GM Koby Altman has done after what seemed like a turbulent offseason in Cleveland.

Re-signing Kyle Korver turned out as well as expected. The signings of Jeff Green and Jose Calderon, which seemed almost insignificant at the time, now loom large. Green is the team’s fourth-leading scorer; Calderon is 6-1 as a starter.

Derrick Rose has been solid in limited action, the Cavaliers are 10-0 in games that Jae Crowder scores in double-figures and Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic both have the look of future rotation players.

Right now, the Wine & Gold are rolling. And the best is yet to come.

Cavs.com Top Plays of November 2017

From blocks to dishes and dunks, Cavs.com has your best moments from the month of November.

2017 November Top Plays

Scroll Video up Scroll Video down Scroll Video left Scroll Video right

Cavs.com Top Plays of November 2017

From blocks to dishes and dunks, Cavs.com has your best moments from the month of November.
Dec 2, 2017  |  05:40